So how big is this Saturday's game? In our yesterday's roundup thread Strathamore&Gayley (boy that username brings up some fun memories) suggested that this weekend's game is the biggest one we had since 1998 (I am presuming he is referring to the one on December 5, 1998). I responded by saying it's probably our biggest one since our Stanford game in Palo Alto in 2001 because there are some crazy circumstantial similarities between that 2001 matchup and the one from this Saturday (more on that below).
But upon further consideration our last game against the Trees was pretty freaking huge. Think about it. We were basically inches away (just look at this picture) from returning to the Rose Bowl championship game - a contest where we would have probably gotten a better matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers (and an opportunity for real revenge) than the nightmarish one against Baylor Bears. Now we get another shot to break through against a program, which along with Oregon Ducks have been carrying the conference flag for last few years.
Going back to the 2001 game - the similarities are pretty crazy. That year Bruin started the season 6-0 which included a huge road win against Alabama in Tuscaloosa (comparable to our big win in Lincoln this year) and also a marquee win against the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Rose Bowl. Heading into Palo Alto, Bruins were coming of a 56-17 beatdown of a terrible, awful Bears teams, which I think finished the season with a 1-10 record in Tom Holmoe's last season.
IIRC we were ranked somewhere in the Top-5 and headed up to Palo Alto as a confident bunch. In fact Bob Toledo was sooo confident about us that during that game-week he was publicly talking trash about Stanford's home-crowd comparing their stadium to a "Safeway parking lot." I flew out from DC to that game to meet up with friends from the Bay Area. That's the first time I got on a plane from DC to anywhere after 9/11. I was pumped. Unfortunately we got our collective hearts crushed as it turned out to be one of the most nightmarish games in our recent history. Bruins took an early 7-0 lead thanks to a Ryan Neece fumble return for TD and then went on to give up 28 straight points.
UCLA got humiliated in Palto Alto in 2001 and then in subsequent weeks the program imploded, setting up a decade of misery. We went on a 4 game losing streak, highlighted by suspensions of Deshaun Foster, Cory Paus's DUI scandal, and then a 0-27 beatdown against Cheatey Petey's Trojans.
So yeah - many of us are scarred. And it's tough not to think about that game 12 years later as the Bruins are heading up to Palo Alto again with a 5-0 record and a top-10 ranking. The vibe/dynamics around the game is a little different now. Stanford is a legit powerhouse at this snapshot of time and they have had the upper hand against us in recent years. And our coach and players are saying all the right things in press. Maybe, just maybe --- we will get to reverse the bad karma from 12 years ago.
Ok, now moving on to some interesting press clips from today:
Speaking of saying the right things, Cassius Marsh sounded contrite in a meeting with beat-reporters today. Hopefully his words will match his future actions.
Beat reporters have been seeking out our kicker Kai'mi Fairbarn this week. Reporters have been trying to get him to talk about the missed kick in the last game that would have taken the game to OT (See LAT and DN's Inside UCLA). Faibarn is handling the questions well. Let's hope if that situation arises again Mora goes for it on fourth down with good playcalls, instead of putting it all on his underclassmen kicker. That was on Mora.
Ralph caught up with Angus McClure today to get his thoughts on going up against one of the best OLs in the conference (if not the country):
And, lastly Kevin Gimmell from ESPN's Pac-12 blog has a post on Bruins looking for a "mistake free performance" in Palto Alto. That will certainly help us to wipe out the bad memories from 2001 (and 2012). Time is now to chase away those ghosts for good.